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Posted 07.03.17

Ben Wheatley on industry, process & feature films Down Terrace and High Rise

By Sarah Packer

Ben Wheatley and Tom Hiddleston on the set of 'High Rise' (2016)

Renowned writer, filmmaker and director Ben Wheatley dropped by the college to talk industry, process and film with our students last month.

Taking time out from the nationwide preview tour of his latest film ‘Free Fire’ (2016), which was screened at Plymouth Arts Centre, Ben discussed how he broke into the industry, beginning with his viral videos which led to commissions producing corporate adverts.

His flair for visual comedy caught the eye of satirist Armando Iannucci, who provided him with the opportunity to write and direct comedy sketches for the BBC.

A Field in England (2013), a psychedelic trip into magic and madness by Ben Wheatley

Known for his dark humour and grisly productions, Ben provided students with helpful hints on ways to direct films, revealing his own learning process and his experiences, from shooting his first feature ‘Down Terrace’ (2009) to his most recent film ‘High Rise (2015).

“It was so refreshing to hear a practising and professional filmmaker be so honest and transparent about his entire process!” — Luke Sims, third-year student

The students were given a unique opportunity to understand the working practices of a successful creative, from how to negotiate the aesthetical issues of filmmaking, alongside time managing schedules and budgets.

“Drawing really helped me later on with the filmmaking, I was totally naive about how films were made, I had no sense of it at all and not to sound like an old man, but the internet makes a massive difference in terms of training.” explained Ben. 

Ben Wheatley with some of our BA Film and Animation students.

On the horror of Kill List: “The problem I had with Kill List is that I made a mistake in the difference between horror films and horrible films.

“Horrible films are different, horror films are actually quite warm and fun and people like them and they go to see them because they know they aren’t real and they’re safe – often.

“I think going back to this idea of what format to film on, you can shoot on any old shit but you can’t have bad sound, it’s bad sound that makes things feel amateur or unprofessional.” — Ben Wheatley

That’s why you have vampires and zombies and why we’ve got this culture of rehabilitating monsters all the time – now the zombies have feelings and the vampires are all our friends and stuff – it’s like what is going on.

“So I made a film that was just really disturbing and horrible rather than a film where people could say, ‘oh I’ve seen a film like this before, I can get behind this.’”

On set directing High Rise with Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons.